Spring Break Surprises: preparing for illness

As spring break approaches, here are some ways to handle sickness while traveling with your children when you are far away from your children’s primary care provider.

  • If your child has a health condition that is intermittent, such as asthma, bring his inhaler, spacer, or any other medication. Even if he hasn’t had a flair up for months, it is much safer to travel prepared. Don’t forget your child’s epi-pen if she has a history of food allergies. If your child’s healthcare provider holds a United States license and you are not in the United States, your healthcare provider can not call in routine medications.
  • If your child has a complicated health history, bring a typed summary of his health history including current medications. 
  • Decide beforehand where you will seek medical help if your child becomes ill . Maybe it is a pediatric or family medicine office that accepts new patients, a walk-in clinic, or an emergency room that sees children. Your child’s health care provider’s ability to diagnosis and treat your child is limited over the phone. Kids are much safer diagnosed in person with the benefit of a thorough physical exam.
  • Travel with the basics: 1) pain reducer such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen for headaches, minor injuries, or aches associated with fever, 2) a quick acting allergy medicine such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benedryl) in case of an allergic reaction such as hives, 3) anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone in case of annoying bug bites or contact rashes such as poison ivy, 4) a topical over the counter antibiotic in case of skin scrapes, and 5) band aids. Remember to first wash any break in skin with soap and water.
  • Bring your child care provider’s telephone number. Even if she cannot provide a final diagnosis, she can provide advice and guidance as to whether or not you need to take your child to a local health care provider.
  • Make sure your child is fully vaccinated. You can’t vouch for the health of other people you encounter on your travels. It is much easier to prevent illness than chase it after it strikes. Likewise, practice good hand washing hygiene.
  • Travel outside of the United States may require specific vaccinations or preventative medications.  Call a local travel clinic or check www.cdc.gov for advice on specific countries.

Kids have a knack for knowing just which week of the year their family will travel and then get sick during that one planned-for week.  I remember the spring vacation that our twins awoke with fevers on our first day away from home. Fortunately, my children travel with their pediatrician. Families who leave their pediatrician behind when they go on vacation can empower themselves with the knowledge of how to handle illness away from their medical home.

Or, there’s the option of inviting the pediatrician along… especially if you’re headed somewhere warm…

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD

©2011 Two Peds in a Pod®

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